Megan McDermott is becoming the one to watch out for at Desert Circuit. After a win on Thursday, she came back feeling extra confident in her new desert kingdom and snatched the win in the $25,000 U.S. Bank Grand Prix aboard Nintendo, owned by Counter Balance LLC.

McDermott was one of four to jump clear over Ken Krome’s first-round track. She also had to jump off first of the four, but that was a task she was quite comfortable with aboard this specific horse.

“It was a very good jump-off in that it was hard and it was a course that if you start to slow down it would make it harder, so my plan was to get a big canter and keep on it,” McDermott explained of her strategy going in first. “If I tried to slow down in the turns I would just override my brain and not do that because I thought I’d be more likely to have a rail. I wasn’t as worried about being tight as I was being fast.”

Megan McDermott and Nintendo. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Being fast was plenty to win the class, as she clocked in almost seven seconds faster than the only other double-clear, which was Cameron Trimino aboard Adalberto Audi Scappino, who won the Surrey U25 for the evening. Kyle King and Quidam’s Rose, owned by Greg Tomb, took third with just an unlucky rail down in the jump-off.

McDermott has been partnered with the 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Nintender x Chacco-Blue) for about three years, so they know each other well.

“He’s the horse in my barn I’ve had for the longest. I got him as a young 7-year-old and he’s my total heart horse,” she said of Nintendo. “He’s super quirky, he’s super weird, and he’s really spooky and does what you least expect, but I love him so much. He’s such a winner and such a partner. When I first tried him I loved him even though he had a lot of work to be done, but now it feels like he reeds my mind. He loves to jump and he loves to go fast.”

Israel’s Daniel Bluman actually had the horse early on in its career and advised McDermott when the partnership was just blooming. His advice still rings true to how she rides him today.

Megan McDermott and Nintendo in their winning presentation, pictured with Peter Schram of U.S. Bank. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I’ve been learning to go with him and stay relaxed in my body,” she explained of how she’s made it work with a more difficult ride. “I’ve also worked with Leo Rauscher who was here teaching the CTAcademy. He worked with us last winter training ways to communicate with him in the flatwork especially. If you think he’s going to spook at something, you should tell him you’re aware so he understands that you see what he sees and he can be okay with it.”

Now three times a winner, twice in feature classes during Desert Circuit 1, DIHP is feeling extra special for McDermott, on top of how much she enjoyed the venue to begin with.

“I was really excited to come here for the winter regardless and this week has been incredible,” she elaborated. “We’ve won three classes and the horses are just flying. They love the footing. To jump under the lights here was incredible. It’s super well lit and the horses really rose to the occasion. The management has also been so nice and clearly wants to make the show horse and rider friendly. It’s beyond comparison.”

Desert Circuit 1 concludes Sunday with the $10,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic.

Katharine Reuter and Deja Blue Score a Win in Junior Hunter Classic

Katharine Reuter and Deja Blue. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Deja Blue is still a new ride for Katharine Reuter, but that didn’t prevent the pair from riding to success on Saturday of Desert Circuit 1. The duo showed in the 3’6” Junior Hunters, taking championship honors, and also rode to the win in the combined 3’3” and 3’6” Junior Hunter Classic, sponsored by FreeJump.

Their scores of 87 and 88 put them fairly comfortably in the lead, despite a highly competitive group of young riders. Even though it’s only their second show together, Reuter and Deja Blue worked seamlessly, putting in stunning rounds and riding to the blue.

“We call him DJ in the barn,” Reuter said of Deja Blue, owned by Roaring Fork Farms LLC. “This is my second time showing him. I got the privilege of showing him during Desert Holiday as well. He’s the sweetest, kindest guy. A couple times this week I was late getting on because I was in the barn loving on him. I’m very thankful for the ride on him. I want to thank his owners Djuna Lauder and the Roaring Fork Farms team, plus Balmoral. It’s been really nice working with them.”

It’s just the start of a busy circuit for Reuter, who is a working student and gets to ride a variety of horses, but she’s loving the time she’s getting with DJ both in and out of the ring. With no concrete goals to achieve on this specific horse, she can just focus on the best possible result each week and enjoy each step.

“I’m just grateful to be able to ride him. We’re just taking it week by week and I can’t thank his owners enough for the opportunity,” she reflected.

The performance DJ put in during Desert Circuit 1 definitely solidified her faith in him and their partnership, so Reuter is looking forward to as many weeks as she gets with him. “He’s been feeling amazing,” she continued of his trips in the hunter ring. “He’s been jumping incredibly and he always gives 110%. He felt so good today.”

It’s a busy season for all, but Reuter stays extra busy in all three rings, expanding her skills and learning from a variety of professionals.

“I’m a working student for Jenn Serek so I’m grateful for the opportunity to ride any horse,” she explained. “I want to do more jumpers, I want to show in the Ronnie Mutch at the end of the circuit so I want to try to qualify for that in the equitation, and I have always loved doing the hunters so I just take any opportunity I get and enjoy it.”

Hunter action concludes for Desert Circuit 1 with the Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions coming to a close.